What is organisation culture?

What is organisation culture?

In business a lot of emphasis has been put on the strategy and leadership of the organisation. However there is another important aspect of the organisation that needs to be paid attention to if any organisation is to operate successfully. This is the culture of an organisation.

The culture of an organisation is what determines the personality of an organisation. As each individual has certain personality traits that identify them and make them stand out in the crowd so does an organisation. An organisation has certain values, policies, rules and guidelines which help identify them from other organisations. Each organisation is different from another because of the culture. An organisation’s culture can be defined as the beliefs and principles of a particular organization.

The culture of an organisation is “how the organizations ‘do things’”. Culture is consistent, observable patterns of behaviour in organizations. Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” So when we are talking of an organisation’s culture we are basically looking at the repeated behaviour or habits of an organisation. Culture represents the beliefs, ideologies, policies, practices of an organisation. It gives the employees a sense of direction and also controls the way they behave with each other. When we talk of an organisation’s culture we are talking of the forces that shape the behaviour in organisations.

Every organisation has a unique culture which effectively makes it different from the other. The culture followed by an organisation has a deep impact on the employees and their relationship amongst themselves. It is therefore very essential for every employee to understand the culture of the organisation they work for because it will determine how they should behave.

For instance in one organiation the employees might not be disciplined and therefore don’t care about its rules and regulations and are always late for work and when at work they spend most of their time loitering. This will be a different culture compared to another organisation that is very strict in adherence to company policies, rules and regulations; where every employee reaches his/her place of work on time and everyone spends time serious at work.

These two examples illustrate two different types of organisational culture that separates each organisation from another. The culture that an organisation follows can determine whether an organisation will be successful or not. Each type of a culture will impact positively or negatively on how each organisation will implement its strategy.

Each organisation has its own culture. No two organisations can have the same culture. A not for profit organisation would have different values, policies and rules from that of a for-profit-making organisation.

Organisation cultures can be classified broadly into two types based on how employees adopt each organisation’s culture. A situation where the employees willingly respect the organisation’s policies and gladly adhere to its guidelines would refer to a strong organisation culture. In such a culture people enjoy working and accept their roles and responsibilities willingly.

However where individuals accept their responsibilities in an organisation out of fear of their superiors and do things out of compulsion then this depicts a weak organisation culture. Such a culture will impact adversely on the performance of an organisation.

The culture of an organisation is affected by a number factors.

The owners or founders of an organisation have a lot to do with the type of culture they promote. If they are risk takers then the culture of that organisation will be that of risky taking. If the founders were conservative then the organisation will be conservative as well. It is therefore important that when you join an organisation your character should align with the organisation’s culture otherwise you will not fit in well.

The individuals working within the organisation contribute a lot to the culture of their work places. Individuals display certain attitudes, interests, perceptions which will affect the organisation’s culture. It is the mind-set of the employees that will shape the culture of the organisation. For instance a security company that employs people with army or police background will tend to follow a very regimented and strict culture where all the employees abide by the set rules and policies. An organisation with youngsters will tend to encourage fun and adventure.

The nature of the industry also does have an impact on the type of a culture that an organisation will adopt. Marketing oriented organisations will display a culture of outgoing whereas an accounting firm will display a very conservative culture.

The gender of the employees also affects the organisation culture. Organisations with a lot of male employees tend to be more aggressive than female dominated organisation which instead would be caring.

The management and the style of management it adopts affects the culture of the organisation. In some organisations management delegate decision making to lower levels thus empowering the lower levels. Such a culture will motivate individuals to work in such organisation and therefore the employees will tend to remain loyal.

The culture of the organisation is affected by its goals and objectives. These objectives will determine strategies and procedures that will need to be designed and adopted to achieve the set objectives of the organisation and thus contribute to its culture because as individuals implement the strategies they have to adhere to certain ways of doing things which become ingrained as its culture. In a fast paced industry like advertising companies, employees are expected to be aggressive and hyper active. That will be the culture that is acceptable in such organisations.

Organisation cultures impact heavily on performance of organisations. In the next article we will examine the impact of culture on performance.

About the author

Stewart Jakarasi is a business & financial strategist and a lecturer in business strategy and performance management. He provides advisory and guidance on leadership, strategy and execution, and on how to build and sustain high-performing organisations. For assistance in implementing some of the concepts discussed in these articles please contact him on the following contacts: sjakarasi@gmail.com or +266 58881062 or on WhatsApp +266 62110062




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